7 YA Books Netflix Needs to Make into Series
I’m probably the only person who feels this way, but when it comes to Netflix, I either find myself perplexed by the abundance of watchable content–the selection of true crime shows alone ensures that I will always have background noise when writing–or disappointed by the lack of it–why don’t they have more Disney movies?–They have a metric crapton of poorly-rated action flicks, but no Aladdin? Is Canadian Netflix going to get Monsters Inc.? On second thought, I’m really in the mood for Robin Hood… but they don’t have that either. Guess I’ll just binge-watch Lie To Me again. How come they have Lie To Me, but they don’t have House M.D.? You know what would be so amazing right now? Bob’s Burgers. Oh, they don’t have that either. Lie To Me it is.
Much like the rest of the TV-streaming world, the last Netflix series I found myself truly enthralled by was 13 Reasons Why, though less than halfway through I started finding myself uncomfortable with its larger implications. Still, I appreciate the conversations it’s started, the discourse it’s contributed to, and (shamelessly) the fact that it gave me something to watch that wasn’t the same old, same old. Is it an imperfect, at times thoughtless rendering of the subject matter? Absolutely. But there has been nothing on TV like it— either on basic cable or a premium network— before, and the chances 13 Reasons Why took, while ballsy, resonated with audiences in all manner of ways. I actually think the Netflix series was better than the source material, expanding on the characters and their world, giving them depth, and putting a much-deserved focus on Hannah’s parents and their grieving process. Given the success of 13 Reasons Why, and my own picky TV tastes, I started daydreaming about the books I’d like to see given the Netflix treatment:
7) Henchgirl by Kristen Gudsnuk
I will never not love or rave about this comic. I think Henchgirl would make a fantastic Netflix series because it’s a veritable hodgepodge of everything that’s great about comics. Humour, heart, wish-fulfilment (heroes and having a well-paying job in your 20s!), complicated family dynamics and a story that just keeps plugging away, right to its wonderful ending. Luckily, Henchgirl is coming to TV in some way— though the details are currently under lock and key.
6) The Takedown by Corrie Wang
I’m not even halfway through this book, and it is making me cringe in a good way. Set in the very near future where all technological boundaries have been erased, and someone else’s disaster is delivered straight to your personal device courtesy of some nefarious computer genius— with the prevalence of technology in our lives and the uncomfortable truth that even in a world where transparency is demanded, privacy is sought after. Scandal is unavoidable and adored by the ever-hungry masses— The Takedown is fraught with suspense and sharp, modern characters. Given how Netflix reinvigorated 13 Reasons Why it could absolutely make a feast out of the ample source material in Wang’s novel. Nothing is sacred, but privacy and truth and integrity, those things should be.
5) Burn For Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian
Pretty Little Liars has nothing on Burn For Burn. Have you ever wanted to be karma’s personal assassin and hurt the people who hurt you first? If so, Burn For Burn is the trilogy for you. It’s a fast-paced revenge saga sprinkled with spooky supernatural elements, and the trilogy deals with a lot of difficult topics in a way that screams “Netflix-bait!” They can always change the ending (please change the ending) as TV adaptations are wont to do.
4) Flame In The Mist by Reneé Ahdieh
A fantastical YA duology set in feudal Japan, Flame In The Mist is right up Netflix’s alley. I know this would cost a lot of money to get off the ground— period pieces usually cost more to make, with Netflix’s own recently-cancelled The Get Down costing $7.5 million per episode to produce— but it would be totally worth it. Sure, it’s a Mulan retelling and if you were really hankering for that, you could watch the Disney movie— but Flame In The Mist enhances the original story with new twists. Netflix could deal with issues of corruption, arranged marriage, sense of self, sense of duty, and the complexities of love far better than a basic cable channel would. Ahdieh has laid out all the necessary groundwork, all Netflix would have to do is translate it into a visual/audio medium. One thing I think Netflix could absolutely expand upon is the relationship between Mariko and her twin brother Kenshin. Plus, seeing all of the magic brought to life (err, brought to TV) would be so freaking cool.
3) Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
This would be a lot of people’s “guilty pleasure,” series and honestly (no shade is meant by this at all), a Netflix adaptation would be able to give depth to issues that the novel just didn’t. Set in the ’90s, Fireworks follows Dana Cartwright as she tumbles spastically into the world of becoming a pop star. Dana’s best friend Olivia has always wanted to be famous, but Dana, who’s always just considered herself Olivia’s #1 fan, isn’t about that life until she’s hand-picked for it by sleazy music manager Guy. Fireworks is a decent contemporary, straddling the line between YA and NA with a fun but sanitized look into the cutthroat music business. But where it fell short, Netflix could pick up the slack: issues of alcoholism, abandonment, anorexia, and class difference were glossed over in the book, or used as a crutch for Dana to repel people while leaning on others. Netflix could flesh these things out, maybe do a fun sort of “making the band,” style series. Dive into the grit and grease, the cattiness and the ambition (what came off as irrelevant high school politics when the stakes were too high for that sort of thing should have been fierce. If the girls are playing to win a life-changing opportunity, show that they care what will happen if they lose it). In terms of Dana and Olivia’s actual relationship: friendships are far more complicated than “one has crappy self-esteem but she leads, and the other one has crappy self-esteem in a different way, but she follows.” The TV series would be able to reflect that, and do justice to Cotugno’s drama.
2) Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O’Malley (writer) and Leslie Hung (artist)
Maybe it’s a little premature to include Snotgirl on this list, as it only has five issues out. I know a lot of people are panning Snotgirl as the worst of O’Malley’s catalogue of work, but to be absolutely fair, it’s an ongoing series with a painfully (painfully. Everything I despise about my own generation has been brought to the page) modern protagonist. Just like with his previous works, Snotgirl pokes fun at itself and realizes it’s a satirical product of its time. The fact that this is clearly a supernatural murder mystery (emphasis on the supernatural. What the whaaaaaat is happening?) makes it an easy choice for binge-watching and gossiping about with friends. I think a lot of people could get in on the joke while also being grossed-out by the amount of blood and snot (and with Netflix’s budget, imagine how disgusting that bathroom scene would be!)
1) Front Lines by Michael Grant
Front Lines is an alternate history of WWII, in which women are allowed to (and do) enlist in the US army. If this got a Netflix deal (or any type of deal, really), I would be screaming. Netflix, I think, could handle some things Grant didn’t touch on (like the regular but unfortunate gift of a period), and propel some things he did (sexism and racism chief among them). I would also love if the TV series focused more on Rainy and Frangie. While Rio found her footing as time went on, Frangie (a black medic who enlists to feed her downtrodden family) and Rainy (a Jewish intelligence operative who plans to kill Hitler with her bare hands) were compelling characters off the bat. Grant did a wonderful job describing the minutiae of war, from the weapons used to basic training procedures. His books already have that cinematic sort of feel to them, all Netflix would need to do is fix it up, and make a few tweaks to compliment an already fantastic story.
What are some of the books you’d love to see adapted from page to screen?